On June 13, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a package of bills intended to strengthen protections for abortion providers, preserve access to abortion in New York — particularly for women who reside outside the state — and put pro-life pregnancy centers under intense scrutiny.
The New York State Catholic Conference criticized the bills for their focus on promoting abortion rather than aiding pregnant women, mothers and children.
“This package of bills seeks to encourage abortion tourism, rather than helping women and children who may be in need,” said a June 13 statement from Kristen Curran, the conference’s director of government relations. “As a state that claims to value autonomy and choice, New York should stop presenting abortion as the best and only option for struggling women, and harassing any pro-life pregnancy center that may help women keep their babies. This abortion-or-nothing narrative only demeans women.”
Several of the laws in the package will shield abortion providers from arrest, subpoena, extradition and medical malpractice charges if they perform abortions on women who reside in states where abortion is prohibited. Another allows abortion providers and patients to enroll in the state’s Address Confidentiality Program, which currently is limited to victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual offense and human trafficking.
‘Predetermined outcome’ expected from study of pro-life centers
Another of the new laws authorizes the state’s health commissioner to conduct a study and issue a report on pregnant New Yorkers’ “unmet health and resource needs.” The text of the bill states this study would determine the impact of “limited service pregnancy centers on the ability of women to obtain accurate, non-coercive health care information and timely access to a comprehensive range of reproductive and sexual health care services.”
In a May 31 memo of opposition to the bills A.5499/S.470, the state Catholic Conference expressed concern about the effects such a study will have on pro-life pregnancy centers.
“The pre-determined outcome of the ‘study’ is that such services are too ‘limited’ in denying pregnant women access to abortion,” the memo stated.
Promoting help for moms and families in need
As the governor and state lawmakers focus on abortion, local Catholics are being urged to turn their attention toward women and families in need. In particular, they’re asked to consider becoming involved with Walking With Moms In Need, a program the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched in spring 2020, according to Shannon Kilbridge, director of the Diocese of Rochester’s Office of Life Issues.
The program’s aims are to help Catholics understand why they’re called to value and protect all human life, and to empower them to assist both pregnant women as well as parents and children, Kilbridge said.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for everyone who is part of a faith community or a parish to know how to help moms in difficult circumstances and families in difficult circumstances. It’s important for everyone to know there’s support for people choosing life,” Kilbridge said.
Parish core groups to connect with community resources
Local parishes are encouraged to become involved with Walking With Moms In Need by first forming core teams of parishioners who will make connections with resources in their communities that assist women in crisis pregnancies as well as mothers and children, Kilbridge said.
“The core team builds relationships with some of the local people and organizations so they have that face-to-face kind of relationship,” Kilbridge said. “Everyone who is part of a parish should be well-formed and well-educated in terms of what’s available, so if a woman who is in need comes to them, they know how to help.”
Each parish’s Walking With Moms In Need core team also will work to help parishioners understand the Catholic Church’s teachings on the consistent life ethic, which upholds the dignity of all human life from the moment of conception until natural death.
Baptismal call to walk with all we encounter in need
“It’s certainly a part of our baptismal call to be a part of walking with everyone in need who God places in our care. That’s part of who we are as disciples,” Kilbridge said.
Information about Walking With Moms In Need, as well as resources for pregnant women and families, may be found on the diocesan Office of Life Issues’ website, LifeROC.org. A core team already has formed at Peace of Christ Parish in Rochester, and several other faith communities recently expressed interest in forming teams, Kilbridge said.
Gun violence, war, racism and hatred have dominated newscasts in recent weeks, underscoring the need for such programs as Walking With Moms In Need, she added.
“In the tumultuous times that we live, the peace that we have as believers in Christ is something that we need to bring to all of these conversations, all of these issues, so there can be some healing, some reconciliation, some hope, especially for all of those who are marginalized,” she said.
This story was updated June 14, 2022.